A hike to one of these remote places will change the way you experience the meal at the end.
Hiking from Åre, a resort town in central Sweden, up and around the hulking granite mountain Åreskutan to Fäviken Magasinet, I inadvertently covered exactly as many kilometers as there were courses on the two-star Michelin restaurant’s menu: 32. I arrived at the restaurant on time for my coveted reservation—it’s often booked up six months in advance—and in great spirits, but anyone who had calculated the mileage beforehand (32 kilometers is about 19 miles) may have taken a taxi instead. My reasons for hiking to Fäviken had nothing to do with exercise; I’d wanted to spend time in the landscape from which Fäviken chef Magnus Nilsson famously draws his inspiration—and many of his ingredients.
Having firsthand knowledge of the ingredients in the wild gave the meal an intimacy I’d never known before and elevated it from an amazing dinner to an experience. When we’d finished the last of the 32 courses and their five paired wines—as well as a glass of 12-year-old Yamazaki whiskey—it was around midnight. I accepted an offer from my tablemates to share a taxi back to Åre, and, wanting more of my meals to be experiences, decided to look for other local landscape–inspired meals I could hike to. There are a few more in the vicinity of Åre, where foraging is an integral part of life, but others are as far apart as Switzerland and Nepal.
Whether you hike the three miles from Zermatt (with a 1,500-foot gain in elevation) or walk 10 minutes down from the funicular station at Sunnegga, Vrony and Max Cotting-Julen will welcome you warmly to Chez Vrony, a cozy mountainside restaurant open for breakfast and lunch. Enjoy in-your-face views of the Matterhorn at a picnic table on an outside terrace ringed with planters of edelweiss; there are sheepskin throws and Chez Vrony–branded wool blankets if you get chilly—after all, the restaurant is almost 7,000 feet above sea level. Or sit inside at rustic wooden tables that look as old as the original stone building, which the Julen family built as a summer home in 1900. Top picks here are the Bloody Mary soup (with lamb chorizo and basil froth), Alpler Rösti (with bacon and a fried egg), lamb entrecôte (braised in port with figs and mashed potatoes), or dried cheese and meat platter (organic and made from local animals). If you get a chance, ask Vrony about her grandmother, the first local woman to summit the Matterhorn.
Open daily except from April 23 through June 15, 2018, and October 16 through November 25, 2018. Breakfast from $17; lunch from $25. Reservations recommended.
Those who aren’t lucky enough to book one of the five rooms on Fäviken’s rolling, agrarian property will likely stay in Åre, 18 miles away and on the other side of Åreskutan. You can hike between the two places as I did, but there are also other ways to soak up the local landscape. From Åre’s cute town square, hike two steep miles up through the peaty, fecund forest that blankets this area to the summit of Totthummeln. “The Tott” has 360-degree views that encompass several different mountain ranges and the lake on which Fäviken sits. You can even see the estate of Fäviken itself: a small collection of traditional Falu red buildings at the southeast shore of Kall Lake (Kallsjön in Swedish). Admire this view then head back to your room, shower, and call a cab to drive you over the mountain to dinner.
Fäviken has 24 seats, including a communal table for eight. Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday but never on Christmas or New Year; the restaurant briefly closes in late August. Price per person for food is $338. A wine pairing is an additional $197.
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Lostine, Oregon
On one of only a few private inholdings within northeastern Oregon’s 361,466-acre Eagle Cap Wilderness, the Minam River Lodge is located in the Wallowa Mountains and accessible only by an 8.5-mile hike or horseback ride or a short flight to its private airstrip. Built in the 1950s as a hunting lodge, it reopened in 2017 after a six-year rebuild, which incorporated logs from the original structure and timber harvested from the property. There is no cell service or internet, but there is a riverside sauna, a wood-fired hot tub, an on-site masseuse, and an array of contemporary rustic furniture designed and made by an Oregon artisan with a MFA degree from the Rhode Island School of Design. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Culinary Institute of America–trained chef Carl Kraus cooks meats from local ranches over an open fire and roasts veggies from the on-site organic garden and greenhouse on the coals. Hike in for a meal and hike back out, pitch your tent in the surrounding national forest, or book a stay in one of the lodge’s rooms, cabins, or canvas glamping tents.
Open May 26 through November 1, 2018. Wall tents from $165; lodge rooms from $208; cabins from $338. Breakfast and lunch are $25; dinner is $75. Nonguests are welcome for meals; reservations recommended.
Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada
You could hike the 17 miles to and then from this wilderness lodge built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1928, but since the hiking once you’re here is so spectacular, we recommend splurging on the helicopter shuttle in one direction and spending your time in the area rather than retracing your steps. The lodge is located at 7,200 feet in Assiniboine Provincial Park, which is adjacent to Banff National Park and part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain UNESCO World Heritage Site. Day visitors are welcome at a lovely afternoon tea from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., featuring fresh cakes and scones; lodge guests enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The lodge-made breakfast muesli and the lunch-on-the-go meat and cheese sammies are filling and delicious. The kitchen really shines at dinner though—the three courses might include beef tenderloin with mushrooms and arugula, swiss chard and cauliflower gratin, coconut-curry butternut squash soup, maple-roasted pork tenderloin, or sweet potato mash with brussels sprout leaves and bacon.
Open from late June through September and the second weekend in February through March. Afternoon tea is $8. Rooms from $229 per person, including all meals. Helicopter flights from $131.
Blåhammaren is the smallest and highest of the more than one dozen “mountain stations” in Jåmtland, Sweden. These modest, backcountry hotel/dormitories are accessible only by foot, bike, snowmobile, or skis, and Blåhammaren is the only one that serves a nightly four-course dinner in addition to breakfast and lunch. It’s possible to make the six-mile hike from the Rundhögen trailhead through gently undulating, hummocky terrain to Blåhammaren and then return the same evening, but the lodge has about 50 beds, and tents can be pitched anywhere outside. At dinner here, it’ll be tempting to stuff yourself with the fresh-baked bread and samplings from the “butter bar” that serves five different kinds of house-made butter, including one called “smör smör.” (Smör is butter in Swedish. “It’s like butter stuffed with butter,” our server explained.) Make sure to save room for dinner though, which might include reindeer with lingonberries and poached salmon with a dill butter sauce.
Dinner is nightly at 6 p.m. and costs $54. Reservations must be made in advance. Dorm beds start at $54 per person. Camping is free, and for $23 campers can use all of the lodge’s facilities.
Chullu West Hotel
No, it’s not a hallucination brought on by six days on the Annapurna Circuit and the high altitude (which in Gunsang is almost 13,000 feet). Here at Sunita Gurung’s Chullu West Hotel, there isn’t electricity, but miraculously there are just-baked muffins: the chocolate and timur pepper, lemon-ginger, carrot-cinnamon, and sea buckthorn treats are all made from recipes developed by Gurung’s French friend Valerie Mallard. The muffin-bound sea buckthorns, and those that make fresh sea buckthorn juice, are harvested on a nearby hillside, which you can spot on the hour’s walk to the small Sherpa community from the village of Manang below.
As unexpected as baked goods are this far into the trek, wait until you taste Gurung’s traditional Tibetan dishes, like her momos, a type of dumpling, or her Thenthuk soup. Her “energetic salad,” which was inspired by her travels around France with Mallard, is a mix of fresh carrots, local dried apricots, sultanas, and apples with a vinaigrette-style sea buckthorn dressing and roasted sesame seeds sprinkled on top. And the views from the dining room? Of nothing less than the Annapurna massif.
A room here and meals cost about the same—between $5 and $10. You don’t need to be a guest to eat here. No reservations are required. Open daily for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. +977 984-9481669